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Everyone’s a Critic

On Tuesday the Common Council lit into Mayor Byron Brown’s recently issued “Snow Removal Improvement Plan,” which was drafted in response to complaints that the city fell on its face during the snowstorm that hit the weekend before Christmas. A one-page summary of the plan, available on the city’s Web site, offers 10 proposals. These include using GPS devices to track the deployment of plowing crews, creating a “Snow Fighting Command Center,” enhancing “training for new and current employees,” and establishing “mandatory post-storm reports.”

1173744771_7e95a22e0cAbsent among these is a proposal to hire more plow drivers and field more plows, and a majority of councilmembers on Tuesday seemed to be of the opinion that lack of manpower and machinery on the streets was the principal cause of the city’s shortcomings in the last two months.

Even the North District’s Joe Golombek, who is usually more willing than most councilmembers to cut the mayor slack, said manpower was at least part of the problem, something the mayor denied. “Either it was manpower or incompetence, and I highly doubt it was incompetence,” Golombek said, according to the Buffalo News.

The mayor’s plan does call for the Public Works Department to contract with private plowing companies, and to contract with private towing companies to remove illegally parked cars that prevent plows from clearing narrow residential streets. The plan also calls for the paving over of vacant, city-owned lots, which could then be used for parking. That would mean fewer cars parked in the street and clearer sailing for city plows.

That proposal has drawn some support and also some quick criticism. What about the expense of paving those lots? Aren’t we trying to move away from creating more surface parking lots in this city? Doesn’t this city have enough trouble with stormwater runoff in the sewer system?
One need only look at the example of Allentown to see how community parking lots work out for neighborhoods with insufficient off-street parking. The city-owned lots beside Nietzsche’s and the Old Pink are less than well maintained, and primarily serve the businesses they abut—which is great, but does not help clear the road for city plows in the wee hours of the morning.

And the city-owned lots at the end of Wadsworth and at the corner of College and Allen? Well, they’re not city-owned anymore. The city sold them for peanuts to a developer and to a convenience store owner, respectively. So they’re not exactly alleviating the parking crunch either, except for those who can afford to pay for a spot. Who’s to say all the new city-owned lots proposed in the mayor’s snow removal plan won’t get sold to private parking lot operators down the road?

Upon reading of the plan, one Allentown resident responded by email, “Good planning never goes out of fashion.”


  • WNYmind

    I have to hand it to the Mayor. This snow plowing plan is moving in the right direction. Let’s disect it and maybe people will see the logic.

    First, the last thing the city needs to do is hire more plow drivers. That would just add costs to an already overstaffed city. There are better solutions to this logistic problem.

    Second, the plan to tow cars is about 2 decades too late. An aggressive towing policy would make a lot of sense in Buffalo. Talk about a revenue tool. The city could make loads of cash and private towing and impound yards would also add jobs to this depressed economy. A little evenly distributed law and order would do the city good. Parking citations, towing, it is a great tool to clean up the streets and raise revenue. The city should also auction off cars that are towed and unclaimed, or just sell them for scrap.

    Third, the city should converts empty lots into off street parking. It is only fair to have a system of off street parking lots if you are going to agressively tow cars. In fact, the fees collected for parking enforcement could finance the parking system. I’d even go a step further and require all city residents to buy a permit to park their cars in the off street lots for a nominal fee (maybe $20 a year, with a discount for economy cars and hybrids). Of course, not every vacant lot needs to be turned into parking, some can be turned into water retention ponds for storm drainage purposes. Again, finance the maintence of that drainage system with the parking fees and fines. You could even stock the water retention ponds with trout and sell urban fishing licenses to people who want to catch their dinner.

  • Peter A Reese

    Just a personal observation, but I see plows driving up and down already cleared mains (like my steet) grinding down the pavement rather than turning off onto a side street. If you want an easy shift this makes sense. If you want the secondaries cleared, management needs to start paying attention to what is going on in the neighborhoods. Tough to do by remote control from City Hall without lots more instrumentation. Maybe the Mayor should spend a shift or two out on the road.

  • Anthony

    My street this morning still looks like the picture, couple days after the snow now.

    Oh, the plows will come though. A couple days late, once we’ve all kind of managed without them.. Then they’ll kindly cut a narrow swath down the middle of the road during the middle of the night, surrounding parked cars in snow banks, and filling in any other viable spots with snow. Making a bad situation three times worse.

    Then at the crack of dawn, parking enforcement makes use of the newly plowed path, ticketing people for having not moved yet… using a packed snowballs as paperweights, because the snow is so high they couldn’t get within feet of the the “guilty” windshields.

    I realize, snow happens. But they salt the wounds more than they salt the streets…

  • Melissa

    I’ve seen plows revisit already paved streets– I’ve seen one plow following another down the street. The news reported that parking enforcement wouldn’t ticket cars the day after that major snowfall because on my street it was impossible to move your car out of the snow piled into it. Shortly after this news announcement I took pictures of parking enforcement ticketing six cars that couldn’t get out of their spot, that were stuck on the wrong side of the road. Needless to say, the side of the road that got plowed we weren’t allowed to park on until five days after the storm had passed– which means that the bad side of the street NEVER GOT PLOWED because cars were always parked in the section that needed plowing.
    I think common sense would serve the community parking situation better than law enforcement.
    And as for the privately owned lots? That’s the reason there IS no parking in Buffalo. I have five huge lots surrounding me that are ALWAYS empty– but they have big signs saying “we’ll tow you if you dare park here”. What good are they?